Have you ever quit a job and walked out without giving any notice? What caused you to leave so urgently?
Well I did one time, because the boss who was also a close friend (which can be complicated) got many months behind on paying me. This was “constructive dismissal” in the jurisdiction concerned so I could leave the moment I liked. I didn’t want any discussion so I just came in at a weekend, fished the fish out of my office fishtank and took them home, and took all my other personal belongings home. I took the computer and car from the company that I had been using as lien against the debt, and later we agreed on a payment plan which involved me taking ownership of those assets as part of paying off the debt to me and me forgiving part, and an instalment plan with interest for a third part, but already I had to work elsewhere. Obviously I had got the new role sorted prior to walking out the door.
I did not steal his clients or run on his business although some who wanted to come to me did come over and I declared these in every case.
Ten years down the line I am trying again with the same boss, as he seems to have learned his lesson and we both missed the good times we had working together. But he knows how I will react if he ever does that again, and so he will make every effort not to.
Fragment from my Lecture “Importance of Properly Prepared Assumptions in Business Modelling”
Original YT playout date: 21 August 2010
What this lecture is for
This is the first hour of my lecturing this year (fourth year running) for the Cambridge Python project. It is an incubator scheme, which we do under the aegis of Cambridge University and the British Embassy in Poland. Students from all the Polish Universities can apply with a business idea. If they work hard they can take their idea through all the steps, and produce a business model using the method I teach them. These are the finalists who’ve already whittled themselves down to a lecture-room-full, and these teams get to present their idea to a panel of real business angels. If they can convince them to invest, then their dreams of owning their own business will become a reality.
First they need to go through very intensive training from me and also from people from the global Management Consultancy firm McKinsey & Company and do homework to ensure that their projects are really state-of-the-art. Now I would be the first to admit that these days this modelling is nothing so impressive, but it was very good at the time. These young people, those who paid proper attention, learned some serious investing skills and what I tell about assumptions is a good mental model which is reasonably timeless.
Why Cambridge pythons?
Here the lecture is hosted by the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Mathematics. The hall seats about 120 and was packed with finalists some of whom had come from distant parts of the country, and the session lasted three hours with one break.
I gave some home made jam to a co-worker who had given me fruit. He shared it in the break room. My supervisor went to each worker and asked what jam they wanted me to make, and insists I make jam for each person. How can I get out of this?
Always ex-pectin, never res-pectin
One tried and tested way of getting out of making jam is to promise it for tomorrow. This method is attested in literature. When tomorrow happens you say to them, that’s right, I said it will be jam tomorrow, and it’s not tomorrow now, it’s today. It’s always jam tomorrow and never jam today.
The big difference
Of course, the big difference is, you were paid for the first lot in fruit. Some of the fruit went into the jam. Now you can easily make the same out of the fruit these others have given you, namely nothing. You can call it K-lear jam. It will, after all, be totally clear and transparent, for ‘nothing will come of nothing’.
Enjoy this carbohydrate-dense moody pic of a marmelade jar by Amanda Slater.
I don’t understand what “get questions” means. It’s not clear whether you meant that you would receive questions from someone else. I would also be unsure if you are actually doing the task yourself or subbing it out to some cheaper person.
Initially I would respond to receiving a new project with something like, “looks like an interesting project, many thanks. I will now do some initial research and if need be I’ll follow up with some questions to make sure we’re on the same page with regard to scope, time frame and deliverables. Thanks again for assigning me to this task”.
People always want to hear thanks from their bosses for their work but not that many people are thankful to their bosses for giving them opportunities to do interesting projects. If you are, then that’s very good. We all want to receive some expressions of gratitude now and again. But if someone makes a business they hear very little thanks. I have yet to see the tax office send a thank-you note for the taxes this business owner pays into the economy, even though that’s the take home pay of all the tax office officials.
There’s a lot of people writing answers to this, but presumably they must have a salient piece of information which I don’t, namely “where are you?”.
Jurisdiction stranger than fiction
Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of different jurisdictions in the world, and even in the English-speaking world. Depending on where you are and the kind of contract you signed, the nature of the work and projects, etc, you might have a right to leave or you might not.
So the only wisdom I can give, other than go to an actual lawyer in your locality, and preferably not to one who wants your boss’s business, is to reconsider your situation, especially after a good night’s sleep.
Praxis makes perfectum
Instead of a legal argument, I want to give you a practical argument. You were, you say, “humiliated” in front of everyone in the office. I think what is unsaid here are the following salient details:
Did you do something that deserved criticism? If so, then accept the criticism, and just say to the boss something like “I know I deserved the criticism, and ought to have done this and that instead of that and this, however, I looked through all the management textbooks I could find and all of them say that a good manager avoids disciplining an employee in public. Do you therefore accept that this was also a mistake on your part?”
You need hands to hold a brand-new job down
If the manager is at least willing to admit they made a mistake as well as you, then I think you shake hands and say, “Ok, we both made a mistake, we both will go back and get on with business as usual.” This is the best outcome as long as your reasons for working with the company in the first place and their reasons to have hired you are still true and aligned.
It takes a certain maturity to be able to do this. If you and the manager can, then for sure you can both be proud of yourself and for sure the rest of the team will find it easier to rehabilitate their view of both of you also.
“Humiliation” can be a rite of passage in certain groups. I remember once I called into one radio shock-jock and got torn into pieces and when I looked in the skype chat where the fans were listening and discussing live, instead of the expected mockery I was reading celebration about a new member of the in-crowd (me) who had got “boyed off (Tommy) Boyd”! Did you check if this is the culture here? If so, you may as well go with the culture. It is hard to change cultures single-handedly, and as long as all it is is a little humiliation, no biggy. It can be in fact very good for people to have their ego taken down every so often.
If you didn’t do anything that deserved criticism, then say to the manager that criticism when undeserved is as far as you are concerned constructive dismissal (this is a term worth looking up on Wikipedia, and finding out if it applies in your jurisdiction and HOW it applies, and here again you need a local lawyer and not Quorans who might know very well how it is in New Zealand or Oregon, but this will be of little help if you are in Dubai or St Neots.) If you are in luck then not only can you leave but also you can claim compensation as if you had been sacked.
Still not as good as shaking hands (edit: Covid-permitting) and getting back to the job, though.
Radix malorum est gravitas
I think the real answer, my friend, is blowing in the direction of developing of a thicker skin, less fragile ego, and a more refined sense of fun, even at one’s own expense. People with these qualities have more success. Gravitas is great, but it has its limits. “Face without jokes is dead”, as the Apostle James didn’t say, but might have done if he had been writing a coaching booklet rather than an Epistle General to the early Church.
And now, let’s make a little prophesy, shall we? Let’s say you do flounce off because this manager got you upset whether or not you deserved it. Let’s say you go to a new company. Now let’s say that in a few months or years, someone who was in the room watching you get owned that day gets hired. They don’t want you up above them, and nor do a couple of others, so as they make their friends and alliances in the new place, one day they impart the information about how you reacted to public criticism in your old place, and as soon as someone wants you out of the way of their own career path, they will arrange for the self-same thing to happen again, and the history book on the shelf will once again be repeating itself, and you will once again find yourself flushing your career down the Waterloo.